Sarawak needs bigger healthcare allocation

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KUCHING: Sarawak needs additional allocation to improve accessibility of quality healthcare services, especially by rural folk, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said Malaysia’s public healthcare expenditure is at 2.58 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and in the recent Health White Paper proposal, the state is looking at five percent of GDP for this expenditure in the near future.

“To achieve equality in healthcare, Sarawak will need to prioritise the development of healthcare facilities in rural areas.

“We will need more trained doctors and medical staff to provide quality medical care in rural areas,” he said during Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) Sarawak’s 50th anniversary dinner at a leading hotel here, on Sunday (Dec 5).

Abang Johari said Sarawak will continue to strengthen its healthcare capabilities via capacity building of its human resource and infrastructure.

“The Sarawak government, through Yayasan Sarawak, is awarding 40 scholarships annually to Sarawakians to study medicine in University of Malaysia, Sarawak (UNIMAS).

This is quite a substantial cost,” he said.

The first batch of medical students graduated this year and the scholarships will continue, he added.

“This is to (increase) the ratio of doctors to population so that the gap will be narrower. And then we can extend medical facilities to places in the rural areas,” he said.

Moving forward, he said Sarawak would want to achieve some degree of health autonomy in accordance with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

“This is a crucial move to develop healthcare in Sarawak based on the needs of our people.

“Sarawak now has adequate healthcare professionals to manage our own healthcare system, and with health autonomy, we can improve the quality of healthcare beyond the standard care by 2030,” he said.

Meanwhile, MMA Sarawak chairman Dr Liew Shan Fap in his speech earlier called on the Sarawak government to demandhealth autonomy in accordance with the MA63.

“This is very important to Sarawak.

We know our people better, we know the needs of our people better.

“I think we can develop and manage our healthcare in Sarawak if we have our health autonomy.

And MMA will give our full support to the Sarawak government on this matter,” said Dr Liew.

Also present were Premier’s wife Datin Sri Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang, Deputy Premiers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian, MMA president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai, and event organising chairman Dr Kalwinder Singh Khaira.